Apparently the Queen Mary is More Than Just a Boat...

Qeen Mary McKittrick
Qeen Mary McKittrick

Because we suddenly seem to have a Queen Mary right here in little old Geneva! Of course, it might be nothing more than a case of City Manager Mary McKittrick harboring delusions of royal grandeur, though she certainly seems to be making good on them.

That’s not nearly all! There’s also the queen’s court which consists of pretender to the throne, Princess Stephanie (Dawkins, Assistant City Manager), you already know the Clown Prince, and, of course, the royal yes man and 5th Ward Alderman Craig Maladra.

And woe be it to any aldermanic peasant who dares to beg the queen for some meager data scraps, for she will swiftly and summarily issue her infamous edict to remove their political heads.

So if you tuned into channel 10 this week, you already noticed the latest recipient of her royal wrath was none other than 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg who had the temerity to request what was essentially a simple workman’s compensation report by department.

Foolhardy serf that he is, Kilburg first attempted to pry that information loose via an unobtrusive email request. But despite state statute clearly stating that aldermen are privy to virtually any internal information, the Queen was not amused and turned him down flat.

Only when faced with staring at those sheer stone castle walls did Kilburg resort to bringing it up at last week’s city council meeting.

Incensed, Princess Stephanie commenced to running around in circles shrieking that it couldn’t be done without a Sisyphean effort, the Clown Prince accused Kilburg of making frivolous requests, and Queen Mary imperiously insisted upon learning the specific reason the alderman dared demand data.

Why, the Queen even issued cutting queries like, “then what,” “what’s next,” and “What are you doing with it.”

Had I been sitting squarely in Alderman Kilburg’s hot seat, my not-so-polite response would’ve been something along the lines of, “It’s none of your damn business, just give me the bleepin’ report.” Because, the legal truth is, no city councilman in this vast county ever has to justify their reason for making a reasonable request.

Finally fed up with his figurative flogging, Kilburg asked if the information could be obtained by FOIA. That’s when Princess Stephanie said something so silly, it will go down in the annals of royal proclamations like “let them eat cake.” She essentially said that if the report doesn’t already exist within the city’s computers, then they don’t have to provide it!

Ain’t it fun to pay an assistant city manger more than $100,000 a year to render that kind of bizarre and blatantly bogus legal opinion?

God bless sage City Councilman Chuck Brown who quickly and accurately noted that, under the Princess’s scenario, to render themselves immune to all FOIAs, all a municipality would have to do is to neither create nor generate reports.

As this former columnist and FOIA expert will readily tell you, Alderman Brown is dead on. If the data exists, short of social security numbers, health information, and overly onerous inquiries, ALL FOIA requests must be honored and answered within five to ten days.

Leaping to the Queen’s defense, Clown Prince Burns declared that “creating work for the staff because you’re curious” was a royal no-no to which the entire city council had already acceded.

No Mayor Burns. What really happened is you and the aldermen came to a loose verbal understanding about not unduly impinging upon staff time. But instead of adhering to the spirit of that accord, you, the Queen and Princess use it to beat the council over the head at every turn. As alderman Flanagan said, perhaps it's time to document the difference between what's reasonable and unreasonable.

The Clown Prince continued his soliloquy by claiming these kind of Kilburgian requests would create the kind of “poisonous atmosphere” that would cause city staff to resort to garment rending and the general gnashing of teeth 

No Mayor Burns, what creates a “poisonous atmosphere” is never holding the staff accountable for absolutely anything. Then you get a fading downtown, a former streets superintendent who steals $24,000, an assistant city manager who thinks FOIA requests are optional, and a city manager who thinks she can treat the alderman like something slightly less than the royal manure.

But not to fear dear reader, this fairytale has a happy ending. (Don’t they all?) For this intrepid former columnist just issued a FOIA request for the very information Alderman Kilburg has been so diligently seeking. And in doing so, I reminded our cast of city characters that not only do I utterly understand the FOIA laws, but I would be willing to involve the Attorney General just to make my point.

I’ll keep y’all posted on that process.

Wait a minute - here’s a thought! Since our city royalty seems to have so many problems with their statutory responsibilities, perhaps this might work. Should any alderman require further city data, cut out the middleman by coming to me first.

Then I’ll FOIA it.

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Terry Flanagan January 19, 2014 at 03:38 PM
Jeff, I think the primary role for the council or any governing board is oversight. Oversight is the means by which elected officials ensure that the public interest is served. Policy determines how those interests are served. Although much of our public policy originates with staff, our elected officials still need to review those recommendations using all of the facts they can obtain to make sure that the best decision is made. An interesting aside in the process is that the agenda probably has the most control over what becomes public policy because if it isn't on the agenda, it can never come to a vote. I don't know how agendas are determined, but whoever controls the agenda controls public policy to a great extent. It might be interesting to FOIA the agenda process to find out who can submit items and what the approval process is for agenda items. It would also be helpful to FOIA the whole set of procedures which govern the conduct of council meetings. That might eliminate some of the vague assertions we hear about those rules.
Jeff Ward January 19, 2014 at 04:11 PM
Terry, You've come to the right place! It's actually the mayors and county chairman who set the agenda. It's one of the few powers they have. They're supposed to wield it wisely by placing all requested items on the agenda, but former Kane County Chairman McConnaughay was notorious for using the agenda process as a weapon to punish disloyal board members. Though it's not foolproof. Please note how, under the auspices of new business, Alderman Kilburg still managed to make his point last week. As far as the verbal "agreement" to not make "frivolous" staff requests, that's worth about as much as the paper it isn't written on. Aldermen Bruno, Simonian, and perhaps even Cummings weren't even on the council then. While Mary and Stephanie outright and repeatedly lied, please also note how the Mayor kept referring back to that agreement because he knew there was no statutory grounds to refuse Dean's request. The real question is where is city legal adviser Radovich in all this? He's supposed to head off and or correct the kind of statements/stiuations that were recklessly bandied about and ran rife at the last council meeting.
Terry Flanagan January 19, 2014 at 04:45 PM
Thanks for the info, Jeff. New business is only for discussion though and nothing can come of it as far as policy. Ostensibly, this is because the public hasn't had prior notice, i.e., a publicized agenda, so the public would not have an opportunity to comment on the issue. However, there's no requirement that anything discussed under new business will ever come up for a policy debate and vote. Will anything come of Dean's comments? My guess is not. However, these civics lessons are useful and interesting.
Jeff Ward January 19, 2014 at 04:56 PM
Terry, You are correct. But that's when the press is supposed to come in and become the means of redress. But when you've got fading local newspapers and the Chronicle's Brenda Schory's lips permanently attached to Kevin Burns butt, the system gets completely out of whack. It's sad when it comes down to a guy who, these days, writes occasionally. That said, I've been talking to various Geneva aldermen today, informed them of how the statutes work, and encouraged them to start standing up for themselves. Perhaps when Ron Singer retires I will run.
John Mcclain January 28, 2014 at 05:47 PM
Are there any updates to this story?


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